Badal's wishlist: 25-year exile for Congress (Punjab Newsletter)

By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Nov 28 : Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal is not going to lose power in the near future, party president Sukhbir Singh Badal believes. He is now telling Punjab Congress leaders to stop "daydreaming", saying it will not return to power for the next 25 years.

In other words, Badal has suggested they go into political exile for a quarter century.

"The Akali Dal-BJP alliance is bound to serve Punjab for the next 25 years and even beyond," Badal asserted at a rally this week.

Even though it is not the first time Badal has made this claim, he has become more emphatic in saying this with his own logic.

"The entire Congress leadership should realise the factual position that the Congress party, after having lost two assembly elections consecutively (in any state), could never stage a comeback in that particular state.

"Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar are states where the Congress has been permanently decimated after (twice) losing elections," said Badal, 51, who took over as Akali Dal president from his father and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2008.

The Akali Dal has been in power in Punjab with alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2007 when the Congress was defeated.

In the 2012 election, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance comfortably returned to power. No government has been returned to power in the state for a second consecutive term in over 45 years.

In the past, Punjab used to see Congress and Akali Dal-BJP governments every five years.

The Congress, highly factionalised in Punjab, has not learnt its lessons from the assembly defeat.

It has been on a losing spree in all elections - from assembly by-elections to municipal polls to panchayati elections.

The party's fortunes have not brightened even after Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa was made the Punjab Congress president in place of former chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Its leadership continues to fight within - and party workers are in disarray.

Badal, credited with the Akali victory in the assembly and other elections, has been doing micro-planning on the political front. At one time, he even sent a party delegation to West Bengal to study how the Communist Party of India-Marxist remained in power for over three decades.

Badal's hold over Punjab is in part due to the infighting in the Congress leadership.

The state unit, even though Bajwa has tried to re-activate it in the last few months, remains directionless. Top leaders speak in different voices.

Unless the Congress leadership works out a miracle formula, the 2014 Lok Sabha polls are going to be another messy affair for it.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 28-11-2013)

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